British PM visits scene of gun massacre

4th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Prime Minister David Cameron was to visit the scene Friday where 12 people were shot dead in a bloody rampage by a local taxi driver in a popular tourist area of northwestern England.

Cameron will meet with police as they struggle to explain why Derrick Bird, 52, went on a shooting spree through the scenic Lake District region Wednesday before turning the gun on himself.

Police confirmed Bird killed his twin brother David and the family solicitor, and said they were investigating speculation that financial or personal problems had pushed an outwardly ordinary man over the edge.

Bird also wounded 11 people as he drove through west Cumbria, calling people over to his car before opening fire or taking pot shots from the window. As police closed in, he took his own life in a wood near the village of Boot.

Officers recovered a shotgun and a .22 rifle fitted with a telescopic sight. Police confirmed Bird had valid licences for both weapons.

More than 100 officers were working to retrace Bird's deadly journey through an area popular with hill walkers to establish why a man described by neighbours as a "normal bloke" caused such mayhem.

One of his friends, a fellow taxi driver, said Bird had been worried about an investigation by tax authorities into his finances.

"He said: 'They have caught me with 60,000 pounds (90,000 dollars, 70,000 euros) in the bank, the tax people'. He just said: 'I'll go to jail'," said Mark Cooper, 45, who had known Bird for 15 years.

Reports suggested Bird argued with his twin brother David over the money and their mother's will, but David's three daughters denied any family rift.

Rachel, Tracey and Katie paid tribute to their father, a "loving character", and said: "We would like to take this opportunity to say there was absolutely no family feud. Our Dad's only downfall was to try and help his brother."

Bird had also argued with other taxi drivers the night before the killings, and reportedly told them: "There's going to be a rampage tomorrow."

Other media reports said an old friend of Bird's recalled that the killer had told him late Tuesday: "I won't see you again."

Bird's family solicitor, 60-year-old Kevin Commons, and his brother were thought to be among the first victims, and the killer then drove to the taxi rank in the town of Whitehaven and shot three of his fellow cabbies.

Other victims included Jane Robinson, 66, gunned down as she delivered catalogues door-to-door, 23-year-old Jamie Clark, whose body was found in his car, and Garry Purdham, 31, found dead on a roadside.

Detective Chief Superintendent Iain Goulding said it appeared the taxi driver selected some of his victims deliberately and others randomly.

He said he was "absolutely determined" to find out why he killed them, but warned: "It may not be possible to establish all the answers because we cannot speak to Derrick Bird."

Goulding said Bird had convictions for theft in the 1990s, but he had never been to prison and there was no record of him having mental problems.

Bird's elderly mother, Mary, was said to be "stunned" by her son's actions.

People who knew "Birdy", as the killer was widely known, described a quiet but popular man who lived alone. He was divorced, had two children and had recently become a grandfather.

David Cowman, a former colleague of Bird when he worked at the nearby Sellafield nuclear power plant 15 years ago, said he was "always pleasant".

He said he thought Bird had "just flipped".

"I just couldn't believe it at all until I saw his photograph. I just couldn't believe it. I couldn't even sense it in him," he said.

Cameron said the shooting, the worst in Britain since 16 children and their teacher were killed by a lone gunman at a school in Dunblane, Scotland, in 1996, was "appalling".

But he warned against a "knee-jerk" reaction to calls for tougher gun laws, saying: "You can't legislate for a switch flicking in someone's head."

© 2010 AFP

0 Comments To This Article